Police investigating two apparent soldiers suicides in recent weeks

Aug 2, 2011

Police in Lakewood, Wash., are investigating the apparent suicides of two soldiers from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord in recent weeks. In both cases, police say the soldiers shot themselves in the presence of someone else.

The first soldier to die was Spc. Rory Johnson, age 29. He was part of the hard hit 5th Stryker Brigade that deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.

Eleven days after Johnson's death, Spc. Jonathon Gilbert shot himself. He was just 21 and had deployed to Iraq in 2009.

Lakewood police are releasing few details, but they will say the suicides took place at social gatherings and other soldiers were present.

"It leaves me with a lot of questions about what the circumstances were," says Kim Ruocco.

Ruocco lost her husband to suicide and now directs the prevention program for TAPS – a national organization that helps grieving military families.

"It's unusual for someone to do it in front of somebody, unless they are in an argument," she added.

Lakewood police won't say whether that was the case in these two recent suicides.

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have offered their condolences and released records that show both soldiers had earned several military awards for their service.

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